In an enlightening essay Paris-based Iranian writer Amir Taheri traces France's Politique Arabe de France (PAF) Arab policy back to its initiator Charles de Gaulle as a way to counterbalance German and American power. Taheri argues that it is time for the French to reexamine the assumptions underlying a policy which is not providing net practical benefits to France.
One aim of PAF was, one must assume, the securing of a greater share for French goods in the Arab markets. But that has not happened. In most Arab countries France has been distanced as a trading partner by Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In a sense PAF may have actually harmed French business prospects. There is a feeling in many Arab countries that doing business with France is always political rather than commercial, and that one must purchase French goods and services not because they are attractive but as part of a pay-off for French political support.
By attempting to prevent a US attack to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime Jacques Chirac has been acting to protect what the French government sees as a valuable relationship with an Arab client state. But the problem with the French thinking is the assumption of the value in some of its relationships with Arab states. The French appear to want influence as an end in itself. The French are so desperate to have influence that they have lost sight of what rational self interests they should most try to protect.
France, no longer a first rank power, can develop special relationships only with states that are basically the left-overs that the United States has rejected. Any regime that is seen as a threat to US interests is available as sloppy seconds for France to cultivate. Long term French disdain for America enhances the appeal of cultivating relationships with Arab countries that the United States sees as enemies. Therefore the French elite disdain and resentment toward the US combines with the desire to find states in which the French government can exercise some influence and results in French policies which oppose US interests in a knee-jerk fashion.
As Taheri argues it is not clear that the PAF policy has provided a net benefit to the French even if one uses a narrow economic definition of French interests. If one widens the scope of interests that are considered then the costs to the West as a whole seem clearly to outweigh the benefits that have accrued to some French commercial interests. The biggest area in which French policy operates in ways contrary to the needs of the security of the West is in nuclear proliferation. French policy, like Russian policy, acts to promote nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation is the greatest threat to Western Civilization because it will inevitably lead to the possession of nuclear weapons by shadowy groups which are not deterrable.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 March 25 12:44 PM Europe and America|